Monday, October 8, 2012

How Good Is The 3D In 'Dredd'?

Background:

It's 3Defence's mission to chronicle the development of 3D Cinema. Dredd arrives at an interesting time in the medium's modern history: ultra-violent, reverent to the comics it's based on, filmed in native-3D on location in South Africa... it's hardly 'the norm' amongst 3D films in 2012. To make things even more interesting: Dredd was written by Alex Garland, who is fast becoming the 'go-to' writer for dark and semi-believable takes on near-apocalyptic sci-fi tales. Dredd is also probably the most kick-ass English language action film to come out along in a long time. But... how good is the 3D?


Native 3D:

Camera used in Dredd 3D - Paradise FX native 3D rig
The majority of the film was shot using Paradise FX rigs, on location and in sets in South Africa's Johannesburg and Cape Town. Digital extensions were used to transform the city into the post-nuclear-war landscape of Mega-City One, but the original footage was seamlessly integrated into this sprawling urban chaos. In charge of the filming was Anthony Dod Mantle; responsible for the stylised look of films like 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire and The Last King of Scotland. If anyone knows his way around a digital rig, it's going to be Dod Mantle. One gets the impression with Dredd that the idea was to take as much stereoscopic information in as possible, and then use various post-production methods to 'enhance' the experience in every way possible.

Does the 3D 'pop'?

Damn right it does. It's the most 'invasive' 3D we've seen in a live-action film in a very long time. A key plot point of the film revolves around a drug called, imaginatively enough, "slo-mo". The drug makes its participants see the world in a euphoric haze of smoke, stars, and ultra high-definition slow motion footage. Overdone at first, and then used for good reasons later, the shots where we 'see' the effects of the drug remind the viewer of other highly stylised action flicks like The Matrix and 300. While it's not done often, the 3D effects extend beyond the screen and seem to travel through the theatre towards the audience - usually while someone's blood is being splattered behind them. If that's not enough (and really, with Dredd, over-the-top is the preference) the film's hero is paired up with a psychic, who can see people's thoughts in a vivid, and surreal, view that also sends visible shock-waves outwards from the big screen.

How's the depth of the 3D?

Tell you what, watch the video below to find out! It shows you how they extended the sprawl of South Africa "into infinity":

What they don't show you in that clip though, is how often you end up staring down the centre of these cavernous towers, looking down from the top floor through to the lobby below. These gigantic buildings can become tombs when protective blast doors shut around them, effectively trapping the occupants inside. These massive objects quickly take on a claustrophobic quality, despite their hulking size. There's a scene where a character is outside one, looking out across the city, and the loneliness they feel is made palpable by the height and distance of these structures from one another. They may be able to see the world around them, but they are completely and devastatingly alone, separated by hundreds of meters from outside assistance. In sum then? The depth is fantastic, when it needs to be.

Did it make sense to add 3D to Dredd?

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd in the 2012 3D film 'Dredd'
In theory, no, it didn't make sense to add 3D to Dredd. Are we glad they did anyway? Hell yes. The 3D is one of the best parts about an already fantastic action film. But, thinking about it, the comic strip 2000 AD was always fairly dark, Dredd's 'modern-day superhero' costume is fairly muted, and the gritty take they were going for ought not to have worked in 3D. But clearly, the creative team thought the idea through, and delivered one of the most successful stereoscopic films we've seen in a very long time.

If we had to archive one version, should we save the 2D or the 3D?

Particles of dust in slo-mo in the 2012 film Dredd 3D

The 3D version of Dredd has to be considered superior. It's clear that Dredd was designed with 3D in mind, from the ground floor of the film's high-rise building, up to the top floor of slo-mo peddling gangsters. The film is structured much like a theme-park ride; introducing you to key characters and locations, and then proceeding to trap you in them, throw you upside down and over steep drops, while showering you in sparks and smoke. For the sheer 'thrill ride' of it all, the 3D version must be considered the 'definitive' version of Dredd. Get yourself a ticket, and strap yourself in, because you're in for a heck of a ride.

The film itself

Alex Garland quote about his 2012 3D film 'Dredd'
The narrative is the weakest point of Dredd. Its strength (other than the 3D) is its characters. No-one is a throw-away character. Every actor gets to play an arc, from a homeless vagrant who barely speaks, through to a medic who has a few lines, and then the titular down-turned lip hero himself; they all start the film in one place, and are completely changed by the end of the film. The friends that 3Defence saw it with were both keen to spend another 2 hours in Dredd's world, which clearly means we weren't bored by the end! Alex Garland deserves a lot of praise for the work he did on this script: Dredd doesn't deserve to be this good, but we're glad it was!

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